Cultural Buildings, Muni / SFMTA, San Francisco, Service Updates

SFMTA Saturday: Muni Metro East and the CultureBus

There are two notable Muni events happening tomorrow, Saturday, September 20. First is the debut of the Muni Metro East light rail maintenance and storage facility. Located on Illinois Street between 25th Street and Cesar Chavez, the new facility is more convenient to the T-Third terminus at Sunnydale. LRVs can access the complex using two wyes south of the 23rd Street T-Third station. The $204 million facility will store 80 LRVs, thus providing relief to the overburdened Green Division at Balboa Park.

The other piece of news is the start of service on the new 74X line, a.k.a. CultureBus, a special service line that will link museums and other cultural institutions that are dispersed across San Francisco. The line will be introduced this week in order to usher in the opening of the new Academy of Sciences next week, on September 27. Fare — which is valid on the 74X for one full day — is $7 for adults, $5 for youth and seniors, and $3 with a Fast Pass. Service runs between about 8:40 am and 5:50 pm, on 20-minute headways. The line travels between Howard & New Montgomery and Golden Gate Park; along the way, it stops at the cluster of museums in the Yerba Buena District, at Union Square, and at the Asian Art Museum. Outbound buses then express to Golden Gate Park. The bus does not serve the more remotely-located Legion of Honor. Click here to see a list of inbound and outbound stops on the 74X.

Service will be run on special, branded vehicles — yellow, no less, so they will probably be difficult to miss. SFMTA anticipates pretty light ridership: about 20-30 riders per bus.  The success of the new line is premised on the assumption that enough people are visiting multiple museums in a single day, in order to make the expensive fare worthwhile — and perhaps it is also premised on the assumption that riders are not sufficiently familiar with Muni to realize that the cultural institutions along the route are already well-served by much less expensive (although locally-serving) transit. It would be interesting to investigate the extent to which ridership would increase by anchoring this line at a regional rail node. One nice service option might be to coordinate service with the hourly northbound Caltrain arrivals on the weekend, depending on how many riders that connection would attract. Also: while the 74X route waffles within a few blocks of the BART subway, it does not actually stop directly at a station.

If you have an opportunity to ride the CultureBus this weekend, please write back with your experience!



10 thoughts on “SFMTA Saturday: Muni Metro East and the CultureBus

  1. Eric,

    Was there special funding allocated for this line? I’m curious as to what the reasoning is for a non-special event bus to have an additional charge for Fast Pass holders.

    Posted by Chris | 19 September 2008, 1:17 pm
  2. I just now passed the 74X as I was walking to my office (yes on Saturday morning). I stopped and asked the driver what line is this, because I’d never heard of it. He said it goes to all the museums. Very cool! Nobody was aboard, but it was 10AM on the first day at the end of the line, so I’ll give them a break.

    The bus was a hybrid with a very bright yellow livery.

    Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker | 20 September 2008, 10:53 am
  3. Hi Chris — the linked Chron article mentioned a $1.6 million/year price tag. The $3 w/ Fast Pass fare, and the $7/$5/$3 is standard for Muni’s special service express buses to Candlestick Park. Even if it’s not a special event, it does sort of fit well into the special (non-commute) express bus category, and it’s an all-day fare. Maybe it’ll have the effect of encouraging people to visit more museums than they otherwise might, now that it’ll be so easy to do so.

    I happened to run across two CultureBuses today, just coincidentally; one was going westbound on Geary at Jones, and another at the Asian Art Museum, but only the first was the signature yellow vehicle. I noted that I saw the bus on Geary at about 11:15 am, so the buses were on schedule at that point, at least.

    Posted by Eric | 20 September 2008, 11:50 pm
  4. I was wondering when MUNI would ever get around to finishing/opening the Metro East light rail facility.

    Yellow colored hybrid…the still relatively new Orion VIIs??? This I gotta see.

    Posted by Edmund | 21 September 2008, 12:34 am
  5. Kinda wacky… too bad, because the Legion of Honor is my favorite of the bunch. Oh well, I guess I’ll just wait until I can ride the B-Geary streetcar out there!

    Posted by David Dugan | 21 September 2008, 9:40 pm
  6. David, you’re awfully optimistic about that B-Geary revival! ;-)

    Posted by Eric | 21 September 2008, 9:43 pm
  7. Weird they spent all that money on a web page and brochure and didn’t even include a route map. For the average visitor it’s just a weird list of street corners. I’ve been waiting for a midday, one-stop express bus from the RIchmond District to downtown. I might even fork over the $7 and try it!

    If you’d like to set your feet on a piece of history, visit Buckshot Bar and Game Room at 3rd Ave. and Geary where the footrail of the ba, built for Pat O’Shea’s Mad Hatter, is a piece of streetcar rail salvaged (as legend has it) from the B-Geary line.

    Not likely to be a stop on the culture bus, it does have decent drinks, pool table, skeeball, and recently started cooking up fairly believable “Southern soul food.” (My partner’s son is the owner).

    Posted by Ben Pease | 22 September 2008, 10:51 am
  8. Will having the Metro East yard open affect planned service at all? Or is more a matter of a general sense that things should run more smoothly now that it’s open?

    Posted by Steve | 22 September 2008, 1:20 pm
  9. Yeah, I don’t have a problem with the extra fee for Fast Pass users, I’m just surprised that I heard nothing about it (and there were no outcries against it).

    Posted by Chris | 22 September 2008, 7:30 pm
  10. Metro East should make things run a lot more smoothly. In terms of planned service, it won’t make the trains suddenly run on time or end bunching, but it will solve some problems Muni faces every morning trying to pull all trains out from a single yard.

    In the mornings, they have to stagger pulllouts because there just isn’t enough power for all the trains, nearly 150 in a yard only mean for 100. And while the J,K, and M can pull out right into service, the L and N have to go quite a ways before they can start service. Pulling out from Metro East the N-Judah’s only have to go a short way before they hit 4th and King.

    Posted by Jamison Wieser | 24 September 2008, 3:37 pm

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